Maputo — The opposition Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM) began its first congress on Wednesday, in the central city of Beira, with its attentions fixed on next year’s municipal elections, and on the presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for 2014.
The MDM was formed in 2009 from a split within the former rebel movement Renamo. It is led by the mayor of Beira, Daviz Simango, and has eight deputies in the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic. In municipal by-elections in December 2011, the MDM won control of a second large city, Quelimane, capital of Zambezia province.
In his speech opening the Congress, Simango stressed that the party must decide on key matters that will be the basis for preparing its 2013 and 2014 election campaigns. In the case of the municipal elections, he said, the MDM hoped to win control of a larger number of cities and towns “so that we can improve the quality of life of our fellow citizens living in those municipalities”.
He urged the congress delegates to pay special attention to defining clear strategies about how to persuade Mozambican to register as voters, and to obtain a voter card – for anyone who is not registered will be unable to vote. He also called for tireless efforts to recruit more young people to join the MDM.
He praised MDM militants for their commitment to the party, which had built it up into a credible force in such a short time – and into the only opposition force which actually governs parts of Mozambique. (Renamo had once controlled five municipalities, but lost them all in the 2008 municipal elections).
Simango said he had no doubt that today “the MDM is the true party of national unity, represented by people and cultures from all regions of the country, and representing all Mozambicans”.
“That’s why we have a great responsibility, and we need to be farsighted enough to understand that the future of the MDM, as a political organisation that wins respect and is an alternative, depends on the unity and opportunities of its members, and in organisational capacity from top to bottom”, he added.
He stressed the need for MDM militants to pay their membership dues, and called for women and young people to be empowered within the party.
“We need cadres who are committed to the principles of the MDM”, declared Simango. “We need more women and young people in action, we have to win more members and voters by working faithfully to build a Mozambique for all, committed, motivated and determined”.
The gains won by the MDM since its creation in 2009, Simango said, meant that “we are a great inconvenience to those who have benefitted from the bipolarization that is now dead” – clearly referring to both Renamo and the ruling Frelimo Party.
Simango also denounced violations of constitutionally-enshrined freedoms and human rights, citing as an example the two month prison sentences imposed on 38 MDM members arrested for alleged electoral offences during the municipal by-election in the southern city of Inhambane in April.
The sentence was widely regarded as unjust, particularly as police commanders, called by the defence as witnesses, never came to court.
This group of MDM members, whom the party regarded as political prisoners, have now served their sentences, and are present at the Beira Congress, where they were applauded by Simango and the delegates.
During the four day Congress, the delegates will debate the report on party activities, amendments to the MDM statutes and programme, and a party anthem, as well as the MDM’s participation in the forthcoming elections. It will also elect the party’s leading bodies, including its president.
Several foreign parties have been invited to attend, including the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), headed by Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
The Congress opening ceremony was broadcast live by the public radio and television stations, Radio Mozambique and Televisao de Mocambique (TVM).
This impressed the MDM leadership which praised the attitude of the Mozambican press.